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Cop City, Climate & The Fear of Sustained Black Economic Rise!

Social Angst and Anger Grows As Ethnic Communities Continue to Improve Even as Fears of Impending Economic Collapse Plague the White Middle Class!

Although enslaved African Americans fared the worst by far, many of Georgia’s early settlers were poor people seeking a better life. Many found it; some did not. During the 1790s, James Vann became a Cherokee Indian leader and wealthy businessman. He established the largest and most prosperous plantation in the Cherokee Nation, covering 1,000 acres of what is now Murray County.

Many natives became landowners, some even owned slaves and thought that they could assimilate into the dominant society by marrying white wives they were told if they obeyed the law and became Christians they could own lands and live in peace. But in 1828, European-Americans discovered gold in the Cherokee held lands of the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia. White People from the state of Georgia wanted that gold. So with the help of the US Congress Georgia passed laws that took away Cherokee rights and started giving away Cherokee land to White Georgians. Georgia held statewide lotteries to give Cherokee land and gold rights to whites. The state had already declared all laws of the Cherokee Nation null and void after June 1, 1830, and prohibited Cherokees from conducting tribal business, contracting, testifying against whites in court, or mining for gold.

Previously to 1830 under the Echota Constitution Cherokees had made it illegal for Blacks to be considered tribal members and sanctioned marriages only between Cherokees and Whites as endowing membership in a tribe, but this availed them not. As far as the European was concerned they could be tolerated as long as they obeyed but never accepted as equals. Soon they would be forced out completely from their ancient lands and travel the Trail of Tears to a barren land Europeans hoped would solve the Indian problem for good.

As in the rest of the country, hardscrabble farms and rough frontier were fertile ground for poverty, and slums grew rapidly in urban areas as well. By the 1850s grim tenements for desperate Irish immigrants existed in Savannah, just as in Boston, Massachusetts, and New York City. The disruptions of the Civil War (1861-65) and Reconstruction mired Black Americans in a new sort of poverty and dragged many more whites into a similar abyss. Sharecropping and tenant farming trapped families for generations, as did emerging industries, which paid low wages and imposed company-town restrictions. Once-proud yeomen frequently became objects of ridicule, and sometimes they responded angrily and even viciously, often taking vulnerable Blacks as their targets. Financially “poor whites” were increasingly labeled “poor white trash” and worse. The terms, “cracker,” “hillbilly,” “clay eater,” “linthead,” “peckerwood,” “buckra,” and especially “redneck” only scratched the surface of their rejection and slander.

The greatest hostility to poor whites came from their fellow southerners, more often than not derision and division was sown by upper-class whites. Southern and Georgia whites had less money, less education, and poorer health than white Americans in general. Even Black southerners had less handicaps; they had traditional medicine, skills in farming and planting which occasionally they would share. Thus we have Hillbilly’s with African Banjos and Southern food comprised of traditional African fare such as collards, Okra, crowder peas also known as Black eyed peas or in Africa Akara a fritter made from the peas, Dandelion teas, Watermelons, Wild Rice and Winter greens, fried chicken, sweet potatoes, peanut stew, catfish, Kush AKA Cornbread stuffing, all these foods and more became mainstays for survival of the Southern poor and eventually the preferred cuisine representative of the American South showing even the food prepared had an undeniable commonality forced by circumstance.

Whether discussing the in the South Side of Chicago, the antebellum South, the Appalachian mountains or the in Louisville, Ky. neighborhoods experiencing modern gentrification, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color have been exposed to the brunt of climate injustice and criminal justice system exposure, while whiter, wealthier communities have been shielded from the worst of both. Despite academics and activists calling attention to the convergence between place, climate impacts, and carceral harms, the political will to address these issues—and importantly, the land-use, zoning, economic development, and criminal justice system policies that caused them—has been lacking.

Some believe that this political inaction stemmed from the fact that government institutions perceived disinvested communities of color as lacking the economic and political capital to fight back against extractive developments (including). Yet what about middle class Black communities where they have established an economic growth pathway that threatens to expand its political access? Indeed, in 2021, Atlanta’s City Council is in a battle against the majority of the community who are actively opposing what has been called Cop City, a paramilitary training facility for police officers.

Research has shown that increased militarization of law enforcement agencies leads to an increase in violent behavior by officers. Investing tens of millions of dollars in a facility that will perpetuate militarized tactics rather than address root causes of violence is harmful to public safety in Atlanta. What is not mentioned is that the main supporters of Cop City are residents of Buckhead Atlanta, a primarily white and Affluent area that is engaged in separating itself from the city of Atlanta because of the large number of young wealthy blacks entering the formerly exclusive community. Also citizens of Buckhead or a large percentage of them did not want their tax dollars going to a city that was increasingly becoming a black majority city.

Similar processes of community disenfranchisement have occurred in majority-Black communities nationwide. One recent example is in Flint, Mich., where the appointment of an removed residents’ democratic recourse to challenge controversial decisions that were exposing citizens to unsafe water.


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